Crews Attempt to Contain Galveston Bay Spill

By Christopher Sherman

McALLEN, Texas -- On Sunday morning, skimmers were scooping up oil spilled in a Saturday collision of vessels in Galveston Bay, and a boom is in place to protect environmentally sensitive areas.

A barge carrying nearly a million gallons of especially thick, sticky oil collided with a ship in Galveston Bay on Saturday, leaking an unknown amount of the fuel into the popular bird habitat as the peak of the migratory shorebird season was approaching.

The Coast Guard said the spill was reported at around 12:30 p.m. Saturday by the captain of the 585-foot ship, Summer Wind. 

The ship collided with a barge carrying 924,000 gallons of marine fuel oil, also known as special bunker, that was towed by the vessel Miss Susan, the Coast Guard said. It didn't give an estimate of how much fuel had spilled into the bay, but there was a visible sheen of oil at the scene.

Officials believe only one of the barge's tanks was breached, but that tank had a capacity of 168,000 gallons.

"A large amount of that has been discharged," Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Kristopher Kidd said Saturday. He said a plan was being developed to remove the remaining oil from the barge, but the removal had not begun.

The barge was resting on the bottom of the channel, with part of it submerged. He said boom was being set up in the water to protect environmentally-sensitive areas and that people would be working through the night with infrared cameras to locate and skim the oil.

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